Babblers Back at Boorowa

Today is a special day at Allendale and one I have dreamed about for fifty one years. We have changed the woody vegetative cover here by planting seedlings, direct sowing seeds, and lately allowing volunteer seedlings to germinate and survive. In 1966 there was only three percent tree cover on Allendale, now there is almost twenty percent.

We’ve been patient, sometimes we even considered importing some birds with whom we’d like to share this land. My father planted mixed species plantations on our few acres of land at Bowral in the belief that species of birds would appear if you provided habitat. I saw that happen as a young boy, so I knew it was possible.

But today I saw for the first time….. Grey Crowned Babblers!!! A few years ago I gave a talk in Cowra called Birds, Biodiversity and Business. At the end of the talk I had a slide of a Grey Crowned Babbler and said that I would die happy if they turned up at Allendale. And they have, two years before I have reached my allotted minimum expected span of three score years and ten. I emphasise minimum here because now I expect there will be a return of other species that were endemic but who have moved further out as we farmers have altered conditions. Effectively we have made our landscapes unfriendly to species that evolved here. We should ponder that deeply.

Our forebears did not know that was going to happen, they had their eye on the main game, fencing, developing and clearing land, making a quid and surviving. Well the main game has changed and now making a quid and surviving is bound up with the notion of diversity. Farms with increasing diversity are cheaper to run, more resilient to shocks and increasing in soil carbon; they are biologically active and getting more so. It is hard to put a value on seeing that busy little bird turning over litter and hurriedly eating whatever showed up.

It was quite unconcerned as I stopped the vehicle to see if I could identify it. I think I received as big a thrill as when we occasionally grew a big crop of grain.

I am hoping the rest of the Babbler’s family is also here or not far away and soon to be resident.

Common wheat grass, and increasing other native grasses and changed tree cover can lead to increased diversity

The excitement that little bird gave me today was greater and  opposite to the sadness I felt about twenty five years ago when I realised that the Brown Tree Creepers had left Allendale. Back then, I think I knew, deep inside me I had played a part in their leaving. We started growing canola next to their habitat and were using insecticides for earth mites and baits for slugs. That was another shove along the way to finding a way of farming that was more about increasing life, than dealing in death.

Today I felt that the Babbler represented a step in the right direction. Perhaps something we have done helped the process, I like to think it was mostly allowing conditions favourable to this little bird that have been the most important reasons it arrived today and let me photograph it.


8 thoughts on “Babblers Back at Boorowa”

  1. Fabulous! They are such delightful birds. They are here occasionally at our home at Geurie but it is such a fragmented landscape I wonder for how much longer this will be.
    A gold star for you David! An insightful goal set and achieved!!!!

  2. This is wonderful news David and a celebration for sure. What a good indicator too of positive regenerative processes at work on Allendale. I am familiar with these busy chattering social birds from field trips out from Canberra to western NSW to Kinchega National Park. Here’s hoping the whole babbler family turn up and start building there large stick nests again in the regenerating habitat.

  3. That is great David! We have a similar dream, to see Bush Stone Curlews returning to our place one day. Stories like yours give us hope that it is possible.

  4. That’s a powerful story David, and tells of a brave, honest way of living, in dialogue with your wounded, healing land…

  5. David
    A beautiful story – and a happy one of recovered birdsong, amidst all our weeping for lost places. As we talked about, your experience in your space is unique and it is great you are able to share it for itself.

  6. Have just read this wonderful story; what a reward for yor years of restoration, David. The tree creepers will be next!!

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